|1 January 2023
|United Rugby Championship
Ben Healy came off the bench to score a last-gasp, match-winning try as Munster snatched the Interprovincial bragging rights in a dramatic finale in Belfast.
The whirlwind conclusion saw the ultimate contrast of emotions as Munster gave themselves a huge boost of finishing in the URC top eight whilst Ulster digested what is now a worrying fourth loss in five games.
Ulster began the sharper of the sides, the returning Jacob Stockdale almost set Duane Vermeulen away, but their possession was rewarded when Cooney opened the scoring with a penalty after fifteen minutes.
Munster were causing their own problems with their set pieces malfunctioning horribly in the first half. Cooney punished their sloppiness with another two penalties to make it 9-0.
Marty Moore departed on a stretcher in an unfortunate looking injury. Munster got the bit between their teeth and attacked strongly; hooker Tom Stewart saw yellow for Ulster, but the hosts somehow held off the attacking siege thrown at them.
The second half started as the first ended with Graham Rowntree’s side pummelling at their hosts. Gavin Coombes instigated it with a rampaging run and from the resulting phases, scrum half, Paddy Patterson sniped and sprinted over from close range to make it a four-point match, 9-5.
Wastefulness was the theme of the day as both sides squandered decent attacking positions but that was forgotten when a sublime, curling pass from Stuart McCloskey found Baloucoune out wide and the winger applied the afterburners to finish smartly in the corner. Nathan Doak, wide with the difficult conversion.
Healy, whose introduction saw Jack Crowley return to centre, notched a super pressure penalty in the seventy-third minute allowing Munster to go hell-for-leather for a try that would snatch victory.
And it duly arrived with the clock about to tick in red. Crowley surged through a flailing defence, Munster’s forwards patiently worked by the space and Healy battered his way across the try-line to stun the Kingspan crowd.
His conversion, from under the nose of the posts, was never in doubt and Munster could savour a one-point, comeback for the ages. 14-15 to the away side as it was in Thomond earlier this season, this was an engrossing start to the URC in 2023.
|Kingspan Stadium, Ravenhill Park, Belfast, County Down, Northern Ireland, BT6 0BW, United Kingdom